Echoes of Pearl in Arda's Landscape

Stefan Ekman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The world of Arda and the many stories set therein carry within them echoes of earlier tales, and even though it would be terribly reductive to discuss Tolkien’s work only in terms of its sources, knowledge of where the echoes come from contribute to our understanding and, perhaps more importantly, enjoyment of his world and stories. This is illustrated as much by the numerous university courses that discuss Tolkien and his literary roots as by the scholarship that examines Tolkien’s texts in terms of medieval language as well as literature. Indeed, many readers take great pleasure simply in identifying an echo from “remote times”, be it a connection between Merlin and Gandalf, the philological roots of the woses in Sir Gawain’s wodwos, or similarities between the battles of Fingolfin and Morgoth in The Silmarillion, and Arthur and the giant in The Faerie Queene. Many echoes are still left unexplored, however, and in this article, I will investigate what traces the Middle English poem Pearl have left in Tolkien’s creation, and suggest how he made the landscape of Pearl his own, writing it surely and truly into some of the more memorable parts of Arda.

My point of departure is Tolkien’s poem “The Nameless Land” in which he uses the Pearl meter, and which recalls the strange and beautiful land where the Dreamer in Pearl finds himself. Apart from invoking a similar dreamlike landscape, the poem’s setting shares several distinct features with the Dreamer’s surroundings, but also shows distinct connections to the world of Arda, connections which become clearer as subsequent revisions of “The Nameless Land” are taken into account. I then examine landscapes both in Aman and Middle-Earth where echoes of the Pearl landscape can be found, discussing both physical appearance and the associations between visions, dream, and death which can be found in the medieval poem as well as in the garden of Lórien in the Blessed Realm and the elven realm of Lothlórien.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-70
JournalTolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


  • landscape
  • legendarium
  • Silmarillion
  • Pearl
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Tolkien


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